Gainey makes history—defeats incumbent Peduto, will become Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor

by Rob Taylor Jr. — Courier Staff Writer

With the Pittsburgh voters yesterday, May 18, Bill Peduto struck out, and Ed Gainey hit the grandest of home runs.

Representative Gainey, by a slim 44 to 42 percent margin, defeated incumbent Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto in the Democratic mayoral primary, effectively making history as Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor.

They were, literally, dancing in the streets, the supporters of Rep. Gainey, at and around his election party headquarters on Brighton Road on the North Side, when news broke of his historic victory around 10:30 p.m. By then, Mayor Peduto had conceded the race. 

“Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop,” the crowd of hundreds there chanted, as the television cameras focused squarely on Pittsburgh’s next mayor.

Moments before Rep. Gainey gave his victory speech, Rep. Lee energized the crowd, giving a big “I told you so” to those who had told her there would never be a Black mayor in Pittsburgh.

“We are here at this moment because of coalitions,” Rep. Summer Lee said. “Because of people across this city, Black and White, Christian and Jewish and Muslim, rich and poor…everybody. We’re here because Ed Gainey and this campaign built a movement big enough for every single one of us.”

Then, Rep. Gainey’s wife, Michelle, introduced her husband, the next mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, Ed Gainey, to the crowd, as the crowd erupted in excitement.

“One person can’t change a city. A city is changed with all of us,” Rep. Gainey said, victory secured. “A city is changed when we all come together to improve the quality of life for everybody. That’s why I ran for mayor, because I believe that we can have a city for all, and we will work hard, not just I as mayor, but we as community, we as a city will work together to build a better city called Pittsburgh for everybody.”

Representative Gainey, after a pause, then said: “We have an opportunity to look at our next generation and leave them with a better city than we have today. We will embrace justice, we will do what we have to do to make this a city that’s welcoming for everybody.”

Voters in Pittsburgh apparently didn’t want to give Mayor Peduto four more years to help make Pittsburgh a city for all. The disparities between Blacks and Whites in Pittsburgh have been well-documented, and voters ultimately felt as though a change was needed, and they turned to the 51-year-old Peabody High School graduate, Rep. Gainey.

He said his main priorities right now are working on police/community relations and affordable housing. Some 7,000 African Americans had left Pittsburgh between 2014 and 2018, according to Census data. Pittsburgh’s Black population now stands at under 23 percent.

Representative Gainey said that Mayor Peduto was gracious in defeat, and Rep. Gainey also congratulated Mayor Peduto on his campaign. “I’m a mayor for all,” Rep. Gainey said. “I can’t wait to work with everybody. There’s no Mayor Peduto supporters, Ed Gainey supporters, there’s Pittsburgh supporters.”

“This is big, man, this is a tide-changer,” Rep. Lee told the New Pittsburgh Courier at the victory party. “We’ve been in this city and we’ve been fighting and hustling and building and Black folks have not been getting anywhere…so to be able to get this win, we’re definitely showing people that there’s a different way to do politics.”

Despite Mayor Peduto outspending Rep. Gainey during the campaign, Rep. Lee told the Courier she felt the right man, Rep. Gainey, came out on top.
Family and friends of Rep. Gainey were everywhere at his victory party. Other supporters were practically falling over themselves trying to snap a photo with the historymaker.

“You’ve been stellar,” Rep. Gainey said as he looked at his wife, Michelle. “Waking me up at 7 in the morning, getting me together, helping out during the campaign, doing everything and more, and I love you for it. To my children and my son-in-law, thank you for putting up with the elevator ride of the ups and downs of your father. To my mother…my mom raised me as a teenage mom and I thank you for what you poured into me. Without you, I couldn’t be here.”

Before the clock struck 11 p.m., Rep. Gainey was asked by a reporter what his message was to the African American community, as they just witnessed him become, in effect, the first Black mayor in the city’s history.

“I want the children to know,” Rep. Gainey replied, “no matter where you come from, if you dream to be something, if you work hard to get there, you can get there. Doesn’t matter your background. It only matters how you get yourself prepared to get what you want.”

STATE REP. ED GAINEY, with wife, Michelle, celebrates his historic Democratic mayoral primary election win on Tuesday night, May 18,
on Brighton Road on the North Side. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

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